Today, a miracle happened. A real live miracle. I got to listen to a whole sermon! I’m not sure what had got into Isaac today, but he can struggle with church. Today he sat for most of it, playing and eating chocolate – it was lovely! Apologies to those of my lovely church family who might reasonably have wondered why the dulcet tones of “Elmo loves his ABC” were floating across the choir anthems, but I’m choosing to see it as his joyful noise unto the Lord. Or something.
So today is the feast day of the Holy Innocents (I’m talking about feast days! Eeep! I just need to start drinking sherry and the Anglo-Catholic transformation will be complete!) The Holy Innocents are the baby boys in Bethlehem killed as a result of Herod’s command. Which doesn’t sound like the jolliest of topics, and it isn’t, but it was one of those sermons that hit me in the midriff a little.
It’s a weird feast to be celebrating so close to Christmas isn’t it? I mean, my Christmas lights are still up and we’re only half way through the turkey for goodness sake! Carols about Silent Nights and Choirs of Angels are lovely, but there are not so many (one I can think of) about the slaughtering of dozens of innocent babies.
Thing is, Christmas wasn’t jolly. It wasn’t then, and, as Father D pointed out today, it isn’t now. Innocents are still slaughtered. On Christmas night, barrel bombs fell on IS held areas of Syria – killing dozens of innocent civilians, adults and children. Iraqi Yezidi families are trapped on Mount Sinjar, surrounded by IS fighters, with little access to food and water. Ongoing Ebola is ravaging the health care systems of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Closer to home, a dear Palestinian friend has just his first Christmas without his beloved wife and child, killed in an air strike on Gaza in the summer. A friend spends her time fighting tirelessly for the empowerment of girls and young women, and yet is constantly exhausted by how little progress seems to be being made. Bethlehem was a massacre site then, and it’s an open air prison today, surrounded by 25ft walls.
The innocents are still being slaughtered today.
So, happy Christmas, all!
Two things though. Something Fr David said has been echoing in my head most of the day. He’ll have to forgive me for paraphrasing, but essentially, we live in the “not yet”. And until Christ comes back, the innocents are still going to be slaughtered. Humans are nasty, and we do nasty stuff to each other.
However. We also are the image bearers of an invisible God. Which means we can be part of that solution. We’re not called to sit back in silence, wringing our hands and talking about how awful it all is. Yes, of course it’s awful, but talking about it isn’t going to do anything. We’re called as Christians to jump right in, to get involved, to pray, to be passionate workers for God’s will on earth, because we get the unutterable privilege of serving him.
We’re not going to solve it all. We’re not going to solve lots of it. We might make not solve anything. We’re living in Good Friday time, and whilst we’re living there, we’re going to experience hardship and poverty and death. That’s how it works.
But Easter is coming. And, to quote the sermon earlier, Easter is where it makes sense. It’s where it gets renewed. And because of Easter, we can say Happy Christmas. Because God with Us becomes Sacrifice for Us, we can have hope.
I’m not exactly a paragon of faith at the moment. Sometimes I’m clinging on to hope with the skin of my teeth. But I can’t imagine it was much different for Mary, fleeing the country after giving birth, running from terror, desperately hoping that God would come through after all, knowing that sorrow was going to pierce her heart. Living in the darkness. But hoping and trusting in the future. Seems a good plan to me.